Features

The Friday Five: 5 Biggest Improvements in Basketball Games

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of what I feel have been the five biggest improvements in basketball games over the past two decades.

After I grumbled about the current state of the preview season at the beginning of the week, we ended up getting the first NBA 2K18 screenshots, and a ton of exciting information about MyLEAGUE and MyGM. Although I stand by my comparisons to the way previews were handled in years gone by, and my point about EA Sports’ missed opportunity to keep hyping NBA Live 18, it does seem as though this year’s preview season is finally getting into gear. As I said, the news we’ve just received regarding improvements to MyLEAGUE and MyGM is exciting, and hopefully the good news will keep rolling out for both basketball games in the coming weeks.

Needless to say, for all the promising tidbits we’ll hear, there’ll be a healthy amount of scepticism. It’s understandable, because both NBA Live and NBA 2K have their own frustrating legacy issues, some of which have been bothering basketball gamers for many years. Of course, with new releases coming out every year, it can be difficult to appreciate just how much basketball games have improved over time. Even though we still have valid complaints, basketball games have indeed come a long way since their early predecessors. Let’s take a look at the aspects of basketball gaming that have seen the most progress; the biggest improvements in basketball games, if you will.

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Wayback Wednesday: Tweaked Roster Updates

Cover player Jason Kidd dribbles the basketball in NBA Live 2003

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at tweaked roster updates for NBA Live.

One of the key elements of roster updates, be they official updates or community-made rosters, is tweaking player ratings for more realistic performance. Whether it’s correcting the guesswork that’s originally needed when assigning ratings for a rookie player, or accounting for a drastic change in performance compared to the previous season, adjusting player attributes is an important part of creating a desirable gameplay experience. In some cases, gamers have ended up making major adjustments to all players, in order to counteract gameplay quirks and try to inject a little more realism into the game. These were known as tweaked roster updates.

It’s an outdated practice now, but many years ago, creating a tweaked version of a roster was considered a necessity if you wanted to try and enhance the experience for your fellow NBA Live gamers. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: What Happened To The Preview Season?

The NBA Live 18 Preview Season is Underway

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on another underwhelming start to the preview season.

In recent episodes of the NLSC Podcast, as well as bulletins covering tidbits about NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18, I’ve talked about this year’s preview season being a little slow to get underway. It’s frustrating, as I found myself discussing the same issue around this time last year. I had hoped that with the return of NBA Live, we might also see a return to the days where there was a constant stream of preview media and information about the upcoming games. Instead, it’s been the same trickle of info, and relative radio silence from both EA Sports and Visual Concepts.

We obviously know that NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 are coming out, and we’ve seen glimpses and heard a detail or two here and there, but that’s it. We know what NBA 2K18’s pre-order bonuses are, but we haven’t heard anything about new features or improvements. We do know a little more about NBA Live 18 coming out of EA Play, but the hype train stopped rolling shortly afterwards. With the way info is held back until it’s almost too late, it’s difficult not to ask the question: what happened to the preview season?

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The Friday Five: 5 Overpowered Badges in NBA 2K17

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five Badges in NBA 2K17 that are overpowered.

Badges have become an important gameplay mechanic in NBA 2K. Like their predecessors, Signature Skills, they provide players with additional traits and abilities in order to realistically represent their performance and playing style. They cover a range of offensive and defensive abilities, as well as mental traits. If you’re playing MyCAREER, 2K Pro-Am, or MyPARK, attaining Badges is absolutely crucial if you want your player to be as effective as possible. In NBA 2K17, a Gold or Hall of Fame level Badge makes a huge difference in being able to finish in traffic, knock down long threes, thread the needle on difficult passes, and so on.

As I mentioned in my Wayback Wednesday retrospective on Freestyle Superstars, concepts such as Badges represent continued innovation in terms of differentiating between players beyond their common ratings, and representing individual styles of play. While Badges have generally yielded more realistic results than Freestyle Superstars, at times they can be just as cheesy in their own right. A few Badges in NBA 2K17 are definitely overpowered, and could stand to be fine tuned for NBA 2K18. These aren’t the only problematic Badges, of course, but they are five prominent examples that immediately come to mind for me.

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Wayback Wednesday: Creating a Legend in NBA 2K11

MJ: Creating a Legend in NBA 2K11

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at MJ: Creating a Legend in NBA 2K11.

NBA 2K11 remains a very highly regarded basketball video game, and for good reason. It was a milestone release in terms of its historical content, and for many gamers, its gameplay still holds up. I’ve talked about it a couple of times in previous Wayback Wednesday features, specifically discussing the inclusion of Michael Jordan, and my efforts to finally complete the Jordan Challenge. In passing, I’ve also mentioned the mode that could be unlocked either by completing the Jordan Challenge, or by punching in the code icanbe23; namely, MJ: Creating a Legend.

Notably different from the incarnations of Creating a Legend that appeared in subsequent NBA 2K games, it’s a mode that a lot of gamers probably didn’t spend too much time with. Indeed, some have probably forgotten about it, if they even realised it was in NBA 2K11 in the first place. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: It’s Time to Retire “Cartoonish”

LeBron James in NBA Live 18

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a discussion of my least favourite buzzword, “cartoonish”.

Fellow basketball gamers, we’ve got to talk. I know that I’ve gone on about this before, in previous articles and on the NLSC Podcast. It’s admittedly hard to broach this subject without sounding like a broken record, a fanboy stamping my feet, or a tyrant aggressively attacking freedom of speech. Hear me out though, because our credibility as a gaming community is at stake here. Alright, that might be a bit of a melodramatic exaggeration, but it is one of our worst habits, and we let ourselves down whenever we fall victim to it.

It’s been run into the ground more than jokes about blowing 3-1 leads, or the Crying Jordan image macro. It’s not making us look smart and knowledgeable about our hobby, even though we absolutely are. It’s tired, lazy, and uninspired. And so, it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to expand our vocabulary. It’s time to learn how to properly critique, instead of relying on snark and overused buzzwords. Quite frankly, it’s time to grow up. It’s time that we retire the word “cartoonish” to describe textures, animations, and other aspects of basketball video games that we don’t like.

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The Friday Five: 5 Lost Official Downloads for Basketball Games

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five official downloads for basketball games that have been lost over time.

In our community, we know the pain of lost files. Mods, especially big projects, have been hosted all over the place throughout the years. As a result of sites being closed down and files being deleted from free hosting services after a period of inactivity, we’ve lost a lot of releases, especially from the early days. We’ve salvaged and re-uploaded files whenever possible, but there are a lot of mods that are seemingly gone for good. Of course, in theory, it is possible to create new versions of those mods which may be just as good as, or even better than the originals. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with official downloads, such as patches and downloadable content.

Just as we’ve tried to preserve our database of unofficial patches and mods over the years, we’ve also done our best to keep a repository of official downloads. If you browse our Downloads database, you’ll find a bunch of the old official patches for NBA Live on PC, as well as demos, manuals, and so on. There are some official downloads that we haven’t been able to salvage though, which means if you don’t already have a copy of them installed or backed up somewhere, you’re out of luck. This week’s Five is a list of five official downloads that have been lost to time…at least as far as I’m aware.

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Wayback Wednesday: Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live 06

Kevin Garnett with the Freestyle Superstars shot in NBA Live 06

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at Freestyle Superstars in NBA Live 06.

As basketball video games have improved along with gaming technology in general, our expectations have also grown. When it comes to aspects such as realism, advanced or flashy moves, signature styles, and player differentiation, the bar has been raised higher and higher. Signature moves were present in EA Sports’ NBA Playoffs series, and skill levels were more defined beginning with the implementation of player ratings in NBA Live 95. However, star players still didn’t quite stand out from the pack. Freestyle Superstars was arguably EA’s first major effort to incorporate individual playing styles, and properly represent differing skill levels.

It was a concept that had its drawbacks, but I also believe that it was innovative and reasonably successful. Although the criticisms of Freestyle Superstars are fair, it’s a little underrated in terms of being an important stepping stone in the progression of basketball video games. How so? Well, let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Ideas for 2K Pro-Am Customisation in NBA 2K18

Court Customisation in NBA 2K17's 2K Pro-Am

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few ideas for customising 2K Pro-Am in NBA 2K18.

Following a few frustrating sessions of 2K Pro-Am as of late, NLSC THRILLHO enjoyed a good run last Friday night. Arcane, Valor, and I were able to go 4-1, finishing up the evening with a payback victory over the lone team that defeated us. We also each had some good individual games, padding our stats here and there. It was refreshing to have a session where everything was clicking for us as a team, and we didn’t feel robbed by the way the games played out, at least for the most part. A slow start last year and some rough weeks have left us with a losing record overall though, as we’ve stuck with our original squad in order to keep our custom branding.

Of course, even though our record isn’t impressive, we’d like to think that our branding is among the best that we’ve come across. Arcane designed our uniforms and court, as well as our sideline banners with all their Milhouse and Thrillhouse references. Unfortunately, it took us quite a while to get to the point of being able to customise all of our branding, due to the changes that Visual Concepts made with the new rank system in NBA 2K17’s 2K Pro-Am. Even though the approach does have merit, there are some changes I’d like to see made to the way that customisation is handled in 2K Pro-Am this year in NBA 2K18.

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The Friday Five: 5 Retro Basketball Gaming Ideas

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five retro basketball gaming ideas that you might want to try out.

The preview season for NBA Live 18 and NBA 2K18 isn’t quite in full swing yet, and although the 2017 NBA offseason is underway, a lot of the big names are already off the board. There are Summer League games to catch of course, but I expect that right now, a lot of basketball gamers are choosing to hit the virtual hardwood. Whether it’s LIVE or 2K Pro-Am, MyTEAM, MyCAREER, or perhaps a new MyLEAGUE or MyGM game with updated rosters, we’re finding ways to get our basketball fix while we wait for news on the upcoming video games, and the start of a brand new season.

Of course, you may be looking for a change of pace, especially if you’re feeling a tad nostalgic, or a little bit burned out on the most recent games. To that end, you may want to dust off an old favourite, perhaps picking up where you left off in an old saved game, or possibly engaging in a little Achievement/Trophy hunting. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something new to do with a classic game, there’s a lot of fun to be had if you get a little creative, and enjoy “What If?” scenarios. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, I have five retro basketball gaming ideas to suggest.

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Wayback Wednesday: A Look Back at DSTATS in NBA Live

Shaquille O'Neal dunks in NBA Live 2000

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at DSTATS in old NBA Live games.

For an enthusiastic franchise mode gamer, detail is paramount. On top of having a quality gameplay experience throughout the schedule, our enjoyment of a franchise mode is driven by the depth of the features, as well as the accuracy and realism of trades, free agency, and player performance. Simulated player stats that are wildly inaccurate can really detract from the franchise experience, especially during the first couple of seasons which are usually expected to somewhat resemble reality. The sim engine is an area where basketball games have greatly improved over the years, but in earlier NBA Live titles, realistic stats were achieved through the use of DSTATS.

DSTATS data provided the development team and modders alike with greater control over simulated player stats, but the approach also had a few noteworthy drawbacks. It’s an outmoded concept, but one that’s interesting to revisit, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The Future of Historical Teams in NBA 2K

Michael Jordan dribbles the basketball in NBA 2K17

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a few thoughts on the future of historical teams in NBA 2K.

Beginning with the content added for the Jordan Challenge in NBA 2K11, Visual Concepts’ roster of historical teams in NBA 2K has delivered an experience that we once never thought possible. While the game hasn’t featured a dedicated mode for historical teams since NBA’s Greatest in NBA 2K12, many retro squads are still available as of NBA 2K17. It’s clear that there’s a demand for them, as new teams and players have been added over the years. Community projects such as the Ultimate Base Roster, U R Basketball, and the Ultimate Classic Teams Roster, further demonstrate how we like to use basketball video games to look back on the past.

Looking ahead to future NBA 2K games, however, I have to wonder what’s in store for historical teams. A few prominent players have been removed since NBA 2K11, and others weren’t included in the first place when their teams were added. Some teams have been cut in their entirety, either due to redundancy, or a lack of real players as licensing deals have expired. It’s been a couple of years since any new historical teams were added – the pre-order bonus Dream Team in NBA 2K17 not withstanding – and even longer since they’ve been utilised in a dedicated mode. I have to wonder, what does the future look like for historical teams in NBA 2K?

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The Friday Five: 5 Cheesiest Moves in Basketball Games

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of some of the cheesiest moves that you’ll encounter in basketball video games.

We all want to see basketball games continue to get better, and eliminate cheesy moves and tactics as much as possible. Well, most of us do, at any rate. Judging by some of the 2K Pro-Am games that I’ve played in NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17, a few gamers probably wouldn’t be happy if a few of the exploits and loopholes were taken care of! Nevertheless, I feel confident in saying it’s what a majority of basketball gamers want to see, and that it ultimately remains a goal of the development teams at both EA Sports and Visual Concepts. If you look back at basketball video games through the years, you can see improvement in that regard.

No game is going to be perfect though, and completely eliminating cheese is easier said than done. Gamers are always going to seek out the most effective tactics, and while these days that usually does mean playing smart basketball, there are still exploits to be found here and there. Throughout all the generations of basketball video games, there have been unstoppable moves and cheap tactics that gamers have discovered and exploited for easier wins. For this week’s Friday Five, I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are five of the most infamous gameplay exploits; indeed, the cheesiest moves you’ll come across in basketball video games.

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Wayback Wednesday: NBA Live 95 in NBA Live 06

NBA Live 95 in NBA Live 06 PS2

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the presence of NBA Live 95 in the PlayStation 2 version of NBA Live 06.

Generally speaking, sim-oriented sports titles aren’t what most people think of, or indeed reach for, when it comes to retro gaming. They don’t always age well, mostly because they appeal to a demographic that wants to see more and more realism, as well as play with current season rosters. As such, they’re not as popular among retro gamers, to play or collect. That being said, there is a contingent of basketball gamers who do enjoy playing and modding older titles, so it’s certainly not unheard of. Finding a way to keep playing old favourites, or at least fire them up every once in a while, is something that people in our community do have an interest in.

When it came to the PlayStation 2 version of NBA Live 06, EA Sports made that a little easier by including an emulated version of NBA Live 95. It was a rather unusual example of bonus content, so let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: The NLSC’s Biggest Move, One Year Later

NLSC 20th Anniversary Logo

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with some reflections on the NLSC’s big move last year, which was one of the most significant in the history of our site.

Around this time last year, I was in the process of moving the NLSC from our old host to our current home. It wasn’t the first time that we’d had to move to a new host, but it was definitely the most stressful move we’d undertaken. On top of the usual downtime and teething problems, there was also an air of uncertainty. For the first time since I took over the NLSC, we’d be footing the bill for our hosting costs, rather than getting free hosting in exchange for advertising space. We also had a deadline, as our old host was discontinuing their services as of July 7th 2016, which meant if we hadn’t moved or at least backed up everything by then, everything would be lost.

Fortunately, it all turned out for the best. We found a new home, nothing was lost, and in terms of covering our expenses, we’re confident that we’ll be around for a while yet. Needless to say though, until everything was transferred and running smoothly, and the financial side of things had been sorted out, I was under a lot of stress. There were a few moments where it looked very bleak, and I found myself trying to prepare for the worst and figure out how to announce the unfortunate news. With our future now looking much brighter, I thought that I’d reflect a little on that time, and offer a little more of the back story.

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